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Ultra Mobile PC Buyer's GuideUltra Mobile PC Buyer's Guide

We look at a range of versatile UMPCs and mobile Internet devices (MIDs) from ASUS, Gigabyte, and Samsung, Amtek, OQO, Roan Digital, Vye, and WiBrain.

22 Min Read

Pity the ultra mobile personal computer. It's barely a few years old and it's already suffering from multiple personality disorder. It may even soon see a midlife crisis.

The first question to ask is, "What is a UMPC?" Don't be surprised if you don't get the same answer twice.

The product category started life as a Microsoft concept called "Project Origami." (Yes, the art of folding paper.) As you might or might not be aware, Microsoft's success with hardware-based products has not been auspicious. From the broad range of hardware it has proposed or delivered, it was first successful with its mouse and then there was... well, its mouse.

In the original plan, an Origami device would utilize a 4- to 7-inch screen that has a minimum resolution of 800x600. The operating system was Windows XP with the Microsoft Touch Pack and it supported access via touch, pen, and dedicated buttons. There was a footnote in there for keyboards as well. Apparently, big old fingers and a little tiny touch screen are no more a match made in heaven for an Origami, er, UMPC device than they are for the iPhone or iPod Touch.




The ASUS R2H adds an optional USB keyboard to its touchscreen and handwriting recognition input methods. (click for image gallery)

According to Microsoft, in its latest incarnation (soon to be released), a UMPC should run Windows Vista Home Premium, weigh approximately 2 pounds, have an integrated touch panel, and be both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled. Did someone not say keyboard?

This newest upgrade to the platform, called Origami 2.0, brings some interesting innovations to the user interface. All are prefixed by the word "Origami." One of particular interest is called "Picture Password." According to Microsoft, it lets you, "log on to your computer by tapping a sequence of targets on a picture instead of typing a text password. It's a quick, fun, and highly secure way to unlock and log on to a UMPC." Yes, it sounds funny, but playing Simon has been fun for years.

The one thing to remember is that UMPCs are niche devices. They're trying to be something more than a PDA, but not quite a PC, and they're almost succeeding. Those with keyboards must be cradled in your hands and typed upon with your extremely agile opposable thumbs. It's not comfortable for a prolonged period of time and, in that sense, they're not PCs. The latest additions of Origami productivity software, Central and Now, add better e-mail, calendar, and weather applications and media aggregation to the device, so it's certainly more than a PDA.

The problem is that, while the underlying concept is quite good, the form factor is driving some people crazy. They want the utility of the device without the sore thumbs -- and maybe something a little larger than 7 inches to look at. To that end, more recently we've seen notebook UMPCs.

This classification appears to cover ASUS Eee PC 901, Acer's Aspire One, HP's 2133 Mininote, MSI's Wind, and others. This genre moves the bar up to an 8.9-inch or even a 10-inch screen, has a cover just like a portable, and, while the keyboard isn't full size (even by portable definitions), at least you can prop it on your lap while you type with both hands.

As if pressure from the notebook UMPCs wasn't enough, last year Intel released its own specification for a mobile Internet device (MID). Guess what? It looks a lot like a UMPC -- or at least the original concept of one. It has a 4.5- to 6-inch screen, it's finger-friendly, and, to Microsoft's chagrin, it's destined to run Linux. (Dual-core versions of the device are capable of running XP and Vista, but the tilt right now is toward a variation of Ubuntu Linux.)

According to Intel, the ASUS R2H, Samsung Q1 Ultra, and the TabletKiosk eo* i7210 UMPC device are prime examples of MIDs. (You might see the inherent problem in recommending a UMPC as a MID device. It doesn't exactly clarify the platform.) The general consensus about MIDs is that, no matter how much media chatter they seem to be accruing, they are too loosely defined at this point to be much of a challenge.




MSI's Wind (or "Wi-Fi Network Device") was developed to compete with ASUS' Eee PC. (click for image gallery)

Because the only real distinction right now seems to be that if they're Windows-based you call them UMPCs, but they're MIDs if they run Linux, they are doing an excellent job of muddying the water.

Included among the might-have-beens and wannabe UMPCs, we've uncovered some honest-to-specification (well, mostly) UMPC devices for your consideration. While some are from companies you know, ASUS, Gigabyte, and Samsung among them, names such as Amtek, OQO, Roan Digital, Vye, and WiBrain may be new to you.

Familiar name or not, they each, to a certain degree, represent a still-evolving product. They are also precursors of the next wave of PCs and, even if you don't intend to rush out and buy one, you really need to give them some attention.

As always, stats and specs are gleaned from the individual manufacturer's Web site. That means some things should probably be taken with a grain of salt. (Pssst: battery times where noted; some manufacturers haven't given a hint)

Ultra Mobile PCs





The AMtek T700 offers a 7-inch screen, 40-GB hard drive, and two-hour battery life. (click for image gallery)

1. AMtek iTablet T700
Processor: 1 GHz VIA C7M
Chipset: VIA VN800 / VIA VT8237R
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 40 GB
Graphics: VIA VN800
Screen Size & Resolution: 7-inch 800x480
Size: 9 x 5.7 x 0.98 inches, 1.9 lb.
Run Time: 2 hours
Operating System: Windows
Web Site

The T700 is pretty long in the tooth, having seen its debut in late 2006. Although originally based on Windows XP Tablet Edition, the latest models have evolved into Vista -- and some venturesome and heretical souls have even been able to coax Ubuntu Linux onto the device. A 7-inch, 800x480 screen, 40-GB hard drive, and about a two-hour battery life are the hallmarks of the T700.

2. Amtek iTablet T770
Processor: 1.2 GHz VIA C7M
Chipset: VIA VX700
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 40 GB
Graphics: VIA VX700
Screen Size & Resolution: 7-inch 800x480
Size: 8.9 x 5.8 x 1 inches, 1.9 lb.
Run Time: 2 hours
Operating System: Windows
Web Site

As you might suspect, the Amtek T770 is an update to the original T700. Although this iteration also sports a native 800x480 resolution for its 7-inch display, you can pump that up to as much as 1024x600 if you're not averse to squinting just a wee bit. The unit features a 2.5-inch 40-GB hard drive, a touchscreen, dedicated mouse control buttons, and will go about 2 hours between charges.




Gigabyte's U60 has a sliding QWERTY keyboard and a Webcam for videoconferencing on the fly. (click for image gallery)

3. ASUS R2H
Processor: 900 MHz Intel ULV Celeron M
Chipset: Intel 910GML Express
Memory: 768 MB (Default is 256 MB)
Hard Drive: 20, 30, 40, and 60 GB
Graphics: Intel GMA 900
Screen Size & Resolution: 7-inch 800x480
Size: 9.2 x 4.5 x 1.1 inches, 1.9 lb.
Run Time: 2 hours
Operating System: Windows
Web Site

Once a one-trick pony with a killer lineup of motherboards to its name, ASUS has branched out into graphics cards, audio cards, notebook computers, and UMPCs. Intel might want you to think that the R2H is a MID, but ASUS seems to like its UMPC designation. It uses touchscreen and handwriting recognition technology to get your point across, but there's an optional USB keyboard available if you're of a more traditional mindset. A 1.8-inch hard drive (available in 20-, 30-, 40-, and 60-GB capacities), 7-inch screen, and a small (2-hour rating) battery help keep the weight under 2lbs.

4. Gigabyte U60
Processor: 1 GHz VIA C7M
Chipset: VIA VX700
Memory: 768 MB
Hard Drive: 30 or 40 GB
Graphics: VIA VX700
Screen Size & Resolution: 6.5-inch 800x480
Size: 7.5 x 4.8 x 1.1 inches, 1.6 lb.
Run Time: 4 hours
Operating System: Windows
Web Site

The U60 is endowed with a sliding QWERTY keyboard (although a bit on the small side) and a Web camera for video conferencing on the fly. Its 6.5-inch touchscreen has a native 800x480 resolution and, despite it's somewhat larger size, the U60 barely tips the scales at a relatively meager 1.6 pounds. Gigabyte rates it as "up to" 4 hours of use.




The 1.7 pounds packed onto the Gigabyte M704's frame are pure muscle. (click for image gallery)

5. Gigabyte M704
Processor: 1.2 GHz VIA C7M
Chipset: VIA VX700
Memory: 768 MB
Hard Drive: 40 or 60 GB
Graphics: VIA VX700
Screen Size & Resolution: 7-inch 1024x600
Size: 7.5 x 4.8 x 1.2 inches, 1.7 lb.
Run Time: 4 hours
Operating System: Windows
Web Site

The M704 is the heavyweight of Gigabyte's family. It packs 1.7 pounds on its frame but, thankfully, it's all muscle: There's a 7-inch touchscreen with a 1024x600 resolution, a choice of 40-GB or 60-GB 1.8-inch hard drive, an integrated Web cam, 768 MB of memory -- and it runs Microsoft Windows for about 4 hours.

6. OQO Model 02
Processor: 1.6 GHz, 1.5 GHz, or 1.2 GHz VIA C7M
Chipset: VIA VX700
Memory: 1 GB (512 MB optional)
Hard Drive: 40, 60, 120 GB (32 GB or 64-GB SSD)
Graphics: VIA VX700
Screen Size & Resolution: 5-inch 800x480
Size: 5.6 x 3.3 x 1.0 inches, 1 lb.
Run Time: 3 hours
Operating System: Windows
Web Site

OQO's Model 02 gives you a choice of three VIA processors, and also lets you pick among a variety of mechanical hard drives, or a 32-GB or 64-GB solid-state drive. It also has a slide-down "thumb keyboard" (kudos to OQO for calling it what it is) and a "sunlight optimized" display to thwart reflections. Have we mentioned the docking station that turns it into a virtual desktop PC once your three hours of battery life have departed (6 hours with the 9000mAH pack)? The integrated 5-inch display with its 800x480 resolution is pretty tame, but the unit has an HDMI port for video out to an amazing 1920x1200 high definition resolution.




Samsung's Q1 Ultra provides access to your stored music, pictures, or videos without booting Windows. (click for image gallery)

7. Panasonic Toughbook CF-U1
Processor: 1.33 GHz Intel Atom Z520
Chipset: Intel GMA 500
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 16-GB SSD
Graphics: Intel GMA 500
Screen Size & Resolution: 5.6-inch 1024x600
Size: 7.2 x 5.9 x 2.2 inches, 2.3 lb.
Run Time: 9 hours
Operating System: Windows
Web Site

A magnesium chassis and a 16-GB SSD (32-GB optional) help move Panasonic's Toughbook CF-U1 into the not-very-easily-destroyed category. It also has a 4-foot drop rating. At 2.3 pounds (using its dual batteries, which are hot-swappable) and nearly a 9-hour run time (ditto), it's very attractive for its 8.9 x 6.7 x 1.3-inch size. Obviously, the CF-U1 is easier on the arms than carrying around four Eee PC 901s -- but it will cost you the same for one Toughbook.

8. Samsung Q1 Ultra
Processor: 800 MHz Intel UMP A110
Chipset: Intel GMA950
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 60 GB
Graphics: Intel GMA950
Screen Size & Resolution: 7-inch 1024x600
Size: 8.96 x 4.88 x 0.93 inches, 1.52 lb.
Run Time: 3 hours (9 hours with bigger pack)
Operating System: Windows
Web Site

At 1.7 pounds, Samsung's Q1 Ultra is a slightly portly, but nonetheless pretty much average, UMPC. It offers a 7-inch 1024x600 LCD touchscreen (with both portrait and landscape modes, so you can deliver presentations or scribble notes), and a 60-GB hard drive. Its standout feature is direct access to your stored music, pictures, or videos without needing to boot Windows (that alone will warm the cockles of some hearts) for anywhere from 3 to 9 hours, depending on which of three battery packs you select.




Raon's Everun delivers up to 7 hours of use with the unit's standard battery. (click for image gallery)

9. Raon Digital Everun
Processor: 567 MHz AMD LX 900
Chipset: AMD CS5536
Memory: 512 MB
Hard Drive: 60 GB or 6-GB SSD
Graphics: AMD CS5536
Screen Size & Resolution: 4.7-inch 800x480
Size: 6.7 x 3.3 x 0.98 inches, 1.1 lb.
Run Time: 6 to 12 hours depending on battery
Operating System: Windows
Web Site

The Raon Everun is actually comprised of five different models spread out across two platforms. The S66HS, S60H, and S6S are based on AMD's LX900 processor, while the L30H and L6S-E use AMD's LX800. The S66HS offers both a 60-GB hard drive and a 6-GB SSD. According to Raon, the unit will deliver 6 hours of use -- or 7 hours if you opt for the S6S with just the SSD. Of course, that gets bumped to 11/12 hours, respectively, if you also choose the larger 4000mAH battery. (2300mAH is standard.)

10. Vye Mini-v S18
Processor: 500 MHz AMD LX 800
Chipset: AMD CS5536
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 80 GB
Graphics: AMD CS5536
Screen Size & Resolution: 7-inch 800x480
Size: 8.6 x 6.4 x 1 inches, 2.2 lb.
Run Time: not listed
Operating System: Windows
Web Site

In the world of UMPCs, Vye's "mini-v" S18 is a chunk at 2.2 pounds. With a 120-GB hard drive, an 800x480 resolution 7-inch LCD screen (the touchscreen is an option), and a QWERTY keyboard, it's not difficult to put on some weight. This is a Windows machine that uses an AMD LX 800 processor accompanied by 1-GB of memory. Its big option is that the screen swivels. Its other big option is that it's expensive.




Vye's Mini-v S41 doubles as a tablet PC and has a DVD super drive. (click for image gallery)

11. Vye Mini-v S41
Processor: 800 MHz Intel UMP A110
Chipset: Intel 945GMS
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 80 GB
Graphics: Intel 945GMS
Screen Size & Resolution: 7-inch 1024x600
Size: 9.2 x 7 x 1.3 inches, 2.4 lb.
Run Time: 3.6 hours
Operating System: Windows
Web Site

The S41 is the latest and greatest from Vye -- at this moment it's still gestating but should be born quite soon. It's also expensive, even by UMPC standards, but it doubles as a tablet with a swiveling touch panel, and has a DVD super drive. Either or both of those options might make it worth the money to you.

12. WiBrain B1E
Processor: 1.2 GHz VIA C7M
Chipset: VIA VX700
Memory: 512 MB
Hard Drive: 30 GB
Graphics: VIA VX700
Screen Size & Resolution: 4.8-inch 1024x600
Size: 7.6 x 3.2 x 1.1 inches, 1.2 lb.
Run Time: 3 hours
Operating System: Windows
Web Site

Our final entry in the UMPC category (in alphabetic order) is WiBrain's B1E. It is probably one of the more stylish models you're likely to find. It features a 1024x600 pixel resolution, a 4.8 inch LCD touchscreen, a 30-GB hard drive, and 512-MB of memory. There's even a 50-key thumb keyboard. The default operating system is Windows XP Home but with so little memory installed, you might want to consider WiBrain's Linux models.

Notebook Ultra Mobile PCs





Acer's Aspire One comes in colors like sapphire blue and coral pink. (click for image gallery)

13. ASUS Eee PC 901
Processor: 1.6 GHz Intel Atom
Chipset: Intel 945GMS
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 12 GB or 20-GB SSD
Graphics: Intel 945GMS
Screen Size & Resolution: 8.9-inch 1024x600
Size: 8.9 x 6.7 x 1.3 inches, 2.6 lb.
Run Time: 8 hours
Operating System: Windows/ Linux
Web Site

You'd have to be living in a cave, high on a mountain, to not be aware of ASUS' Eee PC line-up. The variety of models is almost as diverse as pollen at this point. While the Eee PC 8G and 4G (as well as their associated "Surf" variants) are probably closer relatives to UMPCs, focus seems to have shifted to the Eee PC 901 with its larger screen, for no better reason than because it's new. All right. At 2.2 pounds, the Eee PC 901 isn't a bantamweight contender. It runs Linux and supports a native 1024x600 resolution on its 8.9-inch display. If you order the Windows version, you get 4-GB and 8-GB SSDs, for a total of 12 GB of storage. The Linux model carries both 4-GB and 16-GB SSDs. Asus claims "up to" 8 hours of battery life.

14. Acer Aspire One
Processor: 1.6 GHz Intel Atom
Chipset: Intel 945GMS
Memory: 512 MB
Hard Drive: 8-GB SSD or 80-GB HD
Graphics: Intel 945GMS
Screen Size & Resolution: 8.9-inch 1024x600
Size: 9.8 x 6.7 x 1.2 inches, 2.17 lb.
Run Time: not listed
Operating System: Linpus Linux Lite
Web Site

The Aspire One is scheduled to appear in a store near you (and online as well) shortly. Aside from the expected barrage of color (sapphire blue, seashell white, golden brown, and coral pink), you'll find an 8.9-inch screen, QWERTY keyboard (still not full-sized), your choice of Windows or Linux, and either an 8-GB SSD or an 80-GB mechanical hard drive.




At just over 1.5 pounds, Fujitsu's Lifebook U810 has "notebook UMPC" pasted all over it. (click for image gallery)

15. Fujitsu Lifebook U810
Processor: 800 MHz Intel UMP A110
Chipset: Intel 945GMS
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 40 GB or 60 GB
Graphics: Intel 945GMS
Screen Size & Resolution: 5.6-inch 1024x600
Size: 6 x 6.7 x 1 inches, 1.5 lb.
Run Time: 5.5 hours
Operating System: Windows
Web Site

Part tablet, part PC, Fujitsu says its Lifebook U810 is a "mini-notebook." But weighing in at 1.56 pounds and powered by an Intel UMP A110 processor, this fits-in-your-pocket device has "notebook UMPC" pasted all over it. There's a miniature QWERTY keyboard, an optional 5200mAH battery that nets you 5.5 hours of run time, and a choice of 40-GB or 60-GB hard drives.

16. HP 2133 Mininote
Processor: 1.6 GHz VIA C7M
Chipset: VIA CN896NB and 8237S
Memory: 1 GB (Linux) or 2 GB (Windows)
Hard Drive: 120 GB
Graphics: VIA Chrome
Screen Size & Resolution: 8.9-inch 1280x768
Size: 1.05 x 10.04 x 6.5 inches, 3.2 lb. (with 6-cell battery)
Run Time: not listed
Operating System: Windows/ Linux
Web Site

Two-and-a-half pounds is a bit porky for a UMPC, but as a notebook UMPC it slides in well under the usual 4-pound boundary set for "ultra light" laptops. (Give them a few weeks. Someone will come up with another name.) That's the weight claim for HP's 2133 Mininote equipped with the three-cell battery pack. (The six-cell pack will net you 4.5 hours of use.) But you'll probably be happy lugging the 2133 Mininote around just for its 2 GB of memory and the 7200rpm 120-GB hard drive. These are decidedly upscale, non-notebook, style options. And an 8.9-inch WXGA screen is no slouch either.




The Gigabyte M528's mere 512 MB of memory is sufficient, given its Linux operating system. (click for image gallery)

17. MSI Wind
Processor: 1.6 GHz Intel Atom
Chipset: Intel 945GMS
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 80 GB
Graphics: Intel 945GMS
Screen Size & Resolution: 10-inch 1024x600
Size: 10.23 x 7.08 x 0.748 inches, 2.6 lb.
Run Time: 5.5 hours
Operating System: Windows
Web Site

If you can get past all the possible "Wind" jokes, MSI says the name is supposedly an acronym for "Wi-Fi Network Device." The Notebook UMPC has a 10-inch screen with a 1024x600 resolution, an 80-GB hard drive, and 1 GB of memory. It is a retort to ASUS' Eee PC and it supports both Windows XP and Linux.

Mobile Internet Devices


18. Gigabyte M528
Processor: 800 MHz Intel Centrino Atom
Chipset: not listed
Memory: 512 MB
Hard Drive: 4-GB SSD
Graphics: not listed
Screen Size & Resolution: 4.8-inch 800x480
Size: 6 x 3.1 x 0.88 inches, 0.75 lb.
Run Time: not listed
Operating System: Linux
Web Site

We don't need no stinkin' Microsoft! Or so it seems for the M528, which is Linux-based. The 6 x 3.1 x 0.88-inch UMPC packs a 4.8-inch touchscreen with 800x480 resolution and is stuffed with a 4-GB SSD and 512 MB of memory. (The latter would be an inordinately small amount were it not for Linux.) There's even a keyboard should your touch prowess or handwriting prove less than adequate. According to Gigabyte, the unit weighs in at just about ¾ of a pound.




TabletKiosk eo TufTab v7112XT is a rugged version of the v7110e. (click for image gallery)

19. TabletKiosk eo v7110e
Processor: 1.2 GHz VIA C7M
Chipset: VIA VX700
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 40 GB to 160 GB
Graphics: VIA VX700
Screen Size & Resolution: 7-inch 800x480
Size: 8.98 x 5.75 x 0.98 inches, 1.98 lb.
Run Time: 3.5 hours
Operating System: Windows
Web Site

The i7110 sports a VIA C7-M processor, 1 GB of memory, and hard drive choices from 40 GB to 160 GB. While sized similarly to other models, the 7-inch touchscreen has a native resolution of 800x480 but also provides a zoom function to display 800x600 and 1024x600 at 800x480.

20. TabletKiosk eo TufTab v7112XT
Processor: 1.2 GHz VIA C7M
Chipset: VIA VX700
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 40 GB
Graphics: VIA VX700
Screen Size & Resolution: 7-inch 800x480
Size: 8.11 in x 5.32 in x 1.22 in, 1.98 lb.
Run Time: 3.5 hours
Operating System: Windows/ Linux
Web Site

If you have a need to toss your UMPC MID around like a football or otherwise bring it into a business environment, the TufTab might be your choice -- if you have an expense account to which you can bill it. Picture the i7110e wearing a leather jacket and carrying brass knuckles and you basically have the v7112XT.

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